Help with Adult Learner

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Help with Adult Learner

Post by mtyler » Fri Apr 11, 2008 3:04 pm

It is sort of an odd situation but my daughter's art teacher has asked me to help her improve her reading. She is in her mid 50's, and has an advanced art degree! She said that as a child she was ill a lot and did not learn 'phonetics.' She does read but it seems she does a lot of part word guessing. She is really intimidated by proper names. I'm not sure if this is what others who struggle with reading do, but she seems to look at a whole word, recognize some of the letters, then guess a word that has those sounds (McGregor for McElligott, for example). That seems like a sequencing/tracking problem to me. I was thinking of:

1) learning what part of the code she knows and then teach more,

2) systematic blending practice, then

3) using a program like Rewards for breaking down longer words. (Thanks Susan S. for this suggestion from the Syllable thread)

I know there are no visual problems as she can distinguish a great amount of detail in a line drawing. It seems she has never been taught or has little confidence in tracking all the way through a word as well as advanced code work.

Minnesota, USA

Any suggestions from those who have taught adults would be appreciated

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Re: Help with Adult Learner

Post by Kelly » Fri Apr 11, 2008 10:11 pm

mtyler wrote: I'm not sure if this is what others who struggle with reading do, but she seems to look at a whole word, recognize some of the letters, then guess a word that has those sounds (McGregor for McElligott, for example).
That is pretty much what I used to do, but I didn't guess by the 'sounds' but by the 'letters' or the visual similarity of whole words.

I didn't even know my alphabet sounds. :roll: Therefore I couldn't apply the sounds to help me.

Personally, I did number one and two to help overcome my problems.

Good luck.


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Debbie Hepplewhite
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Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Sat Apr 12, 2008 4:49 pm

Melissa - the offer of my programme for your own use is still open to you!

It may, or may not, be what is needed for this lady, but you are more than welcome to have a look at it (particularly the later stages of the programme perhaps) to see what you think. ;-)

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Post by Goodenough » Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:37 pm

I don't know that I have any tips for you mtyler but I found your post very interesting. I volunteer as an adult literacy tutor. I am not very experienced. I have been working with my second student for about 9 months (an hour or so once a week). Neither of my students had any educational qualifications, not even GCSE equivalent, having left school the moment they were allowed so they are not really comparable to someone with an advanced degree. I have been very surprised by how little they actually understood about reading. Both were totally whole word guessers with no ability to break down words. I had to teach the code from scratch in each case and they had huge problems learning to segment and blend. It took a lot of practice before they could isolate even the first sound from a cvc word and it took me many, many lessons before the first student could blend sounds into words. At the moment I am working with my present student on different spellings for the same sound. He finds the whole concept difficult but on a brighter note he is really excited about his progress and loves reading shop signs etc as he goes about his work.
Good luck with your student and do keep us posted. I would love to hear how you get on.

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Post by FEtutor » Sat Apr 19, 2008 11:50 pm

Hi Melissa
The adults I've worked with have needed to do the same things as other struggling readers: learn the Code and practise the skills of blending and segmenting.

I've found that the students who have progressed the most are those who have enough self motivation and time to do daily practice, so I'd recommend trying to get your student to commit to that from the start, while she is enthusiastic, so that progress is reinforced and noticeable.

If she has trouble remembering any sound/s (and is unsupported at home) these can be recorded onto her mobile phone or voice messaging system for reference between teaching sessions.

In the teaching session I have found that nonsense words can be helpful for practising the skills of segmenting and phoneme manipulation: adults are freed from the stress of thinking that they ought to know how to spell a short word and they are forced to concentrate on sounds only. If the reason for using nonsense words is explained, mature adult students seem to find them perfectly acceptable.

Is your student anxious? That can interfere with her memory. For students who are anxious or self-critical I have devised a short relaxation routine to use at the start of a session- or for use at any time.

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Nonsense words, a few recommended programs

Post by ElizabethB » Fri Apr 25, 2008 1:29 am

I agree with FETutor, nonsense words are helpful for breaking the guessing habit, and the older the student and the more sight words they have been exposed to, the more nonsense words they need to help stop their guessing habits.

Here's a good website for making nonsense words:

For older students, I like my own lessons (see my website, they do have some Biblical content,) We All Can Read (linked from NRRF, uses a lot of nonsense words) and once they get a grasp of the basics, M.K. Henry's Words.

I also like to work with multi-syllable words early on with my older students, it boosts their confidence to be able to sound out such words. If you teach the basics of syllable division (spelled out in my shorter online spelling lessons), you can have your student work through decodable 3 and 4 syllable words, here's a great list of 9,000 decodable words: ... blea2.html

For some of my adult students, I've had to cover up all but the syllable they're currently working on to prevent them from guessing at first. Use 2 blank unlined index cards, one for the right side of the word, and one for the left (Blank and unlined so that they're not a distraction).

I also have a statement that is very reassuring for my older students and adults: "You are not stupid, you were just taught to read with a stupid method." (This is after they claim they're stupid, most of them do think so, but they aren't, the system that produced them is. I've only had one student who I didn't have to use this statement on, and I got him reading well in only 6 hours--he figured out pretty quickly that he wasn't stupid after his rapid progress.)

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